Saigoneer

Hẻm Gems: At Things Café, Humans, Cats and Nat King Cole Coexist in a Harmonious Ecosystem

I admit that it’s taken me great pains to write this week’s Hẻm Gem.

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[Video] 80 Years of Cà Phê Vợt in Saigon's Oldest Cafe

Is there anything as iconically Saigon as having a cup of joe in a hẻm while watching traffic roll by?

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Hẻm Gems: Refreshing Đá Me and a Touch of Pre-1975 Tunes at 81 Cafe

Given the city’s hot weather, cold drinks are Saigon's very own specialty. While cà phê sữa đá and trà đá are timeless staples, in recent years we have also witnessed the rise of milk tea shops in almost every corner of the city. These drinks provide that jolt of caffeine one needs to start or get through the day, finishing with a pleasant taste. On the non-caffeine end of the spectrum, Saigon's menu of fruit- and vegetable-based drinks is as diverse as the list of possible ingredients.

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Hẻm Gems: Cocktails and Conversation at Saigon’s Classiest Sidewalk Spot

Update: As of January, 2018, City Beer Station HCMC has moved to 94A Nguyen Dinh Chieu, Dakao Ward, D1.

In the daytime, you wouldn’t give the storefront at 16 Pham Ngoc Thach a second look. Apart from its tropical-themed wallpaper, the District 3 café is pretty run-of-the-mill, cluttered with low wooden tables and chairs, its walls advertising the WiFi password every few feet.

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Hẻm Gems: Refreshing Chè at a 60-Year-Old Retro Hangout

Relishing a bowl of assorted chè at Thach Che Hien Khanh is more than just an afternoon spent shooting the breeze with friends, it’s also a trip down memory lane and an exploration into Saigon’s heritage, all rolled into a few sweet treats.

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Hẻm Gems: Nguyen Thuong Hien's Quaint Corner Juice Heaven

In Saigon, when life gives you grapefruits, you create a thriving business to sell its juice to health-conscious locals.

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Hẻm Gems: A Cuppa in Saigon's Oldest Cafe

One of the first things Co Suong does when we sit down in the back of her tiny District 3 cafe is bring out the newspaper clippings.

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Maison Marou: The House That Chocolate Built

Across from Ben Thanh Market sits a massive, open pit that will eventually serve as the base for a set of gleaming, modern towers housing the likes of a six-star Ritz-Carlton Hotel. But just beyond the cranes and construction site ambiance sits a modest, two-story art deco structure home to Marou, Faiseurs de Chocolat’s latest creation.

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Hẻm Gems: An Old-School Saigon Cafe, Hiding in Plain Sight

With an abundance of coffee shop chains and upscale, modern cafes in Saigon, there are very few left whose atmosphere and taste still manage to bring you back to the city's golden era. In fact, discovering such a place on one of District 1’s busiest streets is kind of like finding a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.

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Hẻm Gems: District 1's Delightfully Decrepit Bia Hơi

UPDATE: It is with heavy hearts that we inform our readers that the Thi Sach bia hơi has permanently closed. We will miss its regular crowd and grimy, beer-stained walls.

In a city that pretty much runs on beer, the ancient bia hơi on Thi Sach is a trip. Whether you turn up at the crack of dawn or in the thick of the evening rush, the pajama-clad ladies up front are always serving at least one grisly, middle-aged, red-faced Vietnamese man and the beer never seems to run out. On the wall, two paintings that have seen all manner of abuse – heat, water damage, dubious stains, mishandling – seem to barely cling to the wall, while the tiny mezzanine at the back looks like all it would take is one portly patron to send the whole thing to ground level.

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Hẻm Gems: Chocolate Coconut Smoothies @ Le Thi Rieng Smoothies

On a hot night of street food hunting, it was time for a pit stop, one that would not only satisfy our thirst, but also our sweet tooth.

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